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Bond wakes alone; ache within as this registers a pleasant surprise.

He’d returned to the Infirmary after a secondary debrief, checking on Veronica’s wellbeing, expecting the Base’s doctor to chase him away: instead she’d dimmed lights and shut down the unit. An hour had been spent simply revelling in Flemming’s calm before stripping, slipping back around a semi naked form he doubts will ever become boring or familiar. She fitted perfectly under the crook of a willing arm; shifting slightly, allowing body to be embraced. In sleep his name is whispered not in passion but simply as recognition, welcome reminder of the first morning they woke together in his flat. Pimlico seems a very long way away right now, place he’ll want them both to redecorate on their return, eradicating Madeline’s influence forever. She’ll suggest simple colours, nothing pastel or floral, understated yet comforting. Bond will be happy to let her make those decisions.

Staring at the Infirmary ceiling, 007 also acknowledges that sleeping in contact lenses is not something he wants to continue entertaining long term. Keeping up the deception is becoming as tiresome as having to ensure Gregory understands that his mental health is being addressed, with due diligence. It was unfortunate the revelation over issues with his learning curve was made in front of the entire Operations and Acquisitions department plus two members of senior management. In fairness, it had been a surprise to him too. Next time, James will make sure both place and time are suitably considered. For now, hunger is the most pressing concern, sudden urge for Eggs Benedict being distracted by the unmistakeable smell of fresh pastry…

Turning on this uncomfortable infirmary bed, there’s a simple wooden tray spied atop an instrument trolley. Coffee and cream are both fresh, patisserie recently made but most welcome of all is the note, written on what looks like the back of a temperature chart. For a moment he’s back in London, morning after they’d stopped being colleagues and became lovers. Again there’s chastisement, stupidity in forgetting everything important when adopting Mr White’s dying wish as a misguided mission brief. It takes a second for eyes to focus, even with lenses, allowing her words to settle in his heart and make sense. Veronica’s brilliance is undoubtedly reinvention, improvement plus refinement as the 00 section evolves around her.

‘To the final eradication of pointless metaphors.’

James laughs, knowing the last mission carrying his 00 designation had already begun.

Leaning back in the Command Centre chair, Flemmings waits for her immediate superior to consider the question. She’d woken in Bond’s arms, realising in a moment of full-blown revelation there was no time to sleep, recover or indeed indulge. 00 status was job and life: both had connected in a heartbeat to the single, intractable objective: complete your mission brief. Right now that meant as long as Christian Swann lived, she didn’t rest. The first thought after finding clothing to replace the hospital gown was inescapable: complete your task alone, but then had come another moment of consideration; plan scrubbed before it began.

This mission had never only been hers to begin with.

That meant locating the spaciously, awe-inspiring Central Control unit, before impressing the on-duty staff both of position and significance. Then this space was commandeering, trusted team called together. Q was with Alex, deserving all the downtime he could possibly be afforded, so this time she began with Will, who in turn had suggested that Frasier be included, followed closely by Curtis to act as note taker and impartial third party.

Four hours later that impromptu conversation had morphed into a full-blown debrief.

Tanner’s as casual as she’s ever seen him: jeans, trainers plus an England Rugby shirt. Rachel is still in blue silk PJ’s and dressing gown, Emmanuel wearing the sweats he’d been exercising in at one of the Tower’s gym suites when summoned. All three have sat and listened as everything has fallen out, 004 not afraid to be both vulnerable and brutal when required, and once the details of her exile were covered, focus had immediately shifted to present requirements. Everybody except her knew where Swann was hiding, or else the whole operation would already be moving back to London. What Ronni needed most of all was to be allowed an opportunity to finish the task her fellow 00’s had started, but Tanner would not give the okay until he believed her 100% capable. Convincing him was proving more difficult than expected.

‘This breaks pretty much every protocol we have, 004, but you know that.’

‘If this was Bond, Will, Flemmings wouldn’t even have asked. She’d be out there already, alone, and we’d be playing catch up.’

Frasier’s been quietly supporting her for the last hour and the comment is meant to do just that, but it irritates Ronni in a manner that is a surprise. Maybe because she knows Bond now, almost as well as herself, and that agent would not be working alone.

‘The old 007, perhaps, but not now. He’s changed, and is becoming more like 004, at least in my eyes. It proves Q’s point that everyone works better as a unit, Sir.’

Emmanuel’s said virtually nothing in the last thirty minutes, and to have him chip in at this point is significant. Will gets up from the desk he’s been sitting on, going over to the younger man who is using one of the Base’s terminals to make notes.

‘That’s undeniably true, Curtis. I’ll have to wake the old man for a final okay regardless, and I doubt he’d object considering the way you handled yourself yesterday, but I know you, Ron. All those years in Acquisitions counts for something, without needing Gregory here. Can you do this?’

Ronni knows the license to kill was part of the uniform, as much as the evening dress or sidearm. She has no fear in the kill, only around consequences, yet he was right. Part of her would always want a better way, but not with this man.

‘I need to eliminate him before there’s a chance for Spectre to regroup, Will. He has to be removed from the equation.’

‘You’re sure execution is the best way?’

‘We cannot show leniency, not with what we know he’s done. He needs to die in theatre, preferably with an audience. Swann lives in a world where everybody’s watching, but only sees what they want, including him. If we took this man into custody, nothing changes. He has to die as public a death as Bond, and the rest of his organisation need to grasp that the game is well and truly over.’

‘You didn’t answer the question.’

‘I don’t need to kill him, MI6 does, a full four person team charged with exactly that task. We remove Swann with precision, and Spectre become a memory.’

‘If you’re asked to perform the kill-‘

‘I’ll be happy to push the button, just don’t ask me to enjoy it.’

There’s an exhale, just enough honesty to swing the weight of argument finally to her hands, and Will walks over as she stands.

‘I have no doubt you’re capable -‘

‘You just want to make sure I’ll cope, the same way you always have. I am, and I will.’

Rachel’s already on her way to change, Emmanuel at her side: regardless of M’s final okay, the senior staff are already on board, which is all Ronni needs. She hadn’t known how Swann would meet his end until this moment, but thanks to her unintentionally incorrect idiom, that plan was now almost fully formed. To succeed however she’d need James awake and willing, with some help from LaCroix.

However, there’s a more pressing issue to address first.

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Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.

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